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The best of Tim Murtagh


Tim_Murtagh_Ireland_CricketTim Murtagh, one of Ireland’s lynchpins in the last decade, called time on his international career on November 29. The 38-year-old seamer had been an integral part of the Irish set-up since his debut in 2012, and played a vital role in the national team’s journey towards Test status. Murtagh brought his rich domestic experience with Surrey and Middlesex – he has so far taken 816 first-class wickets – to Ireland, for whom he played three Tests, 58 ODIs and 14 T20Is.

Significantly, Murtagh will go down in history as the first Irishman to bowl in a Test match, as well as the first Irishman to take a Test five-wicket haul. As we appreciate his services to Irish cricket, here is a look back at six of his most memorable performances on the international scene, in chronological order.

3/33 v England, Only ODI, Dublin, 2013

Touted as the ‘new home of Irish cricket’, The Village in Malahide played host to England in its first international fixture. Captain William Porterfield gave the 10000-strong crowd reason to be optimistic at the halfway mark, as his 112 carried Ireland to a competitive 269/7. Thereafter, Murtagh rose to the occasion, taking three early scalps to leave England in trouble at 48/4 in the 15th over. His first strike was in his fifth over, as he bowled Luke Wright to make the score 25/2.

Two balls later, Murtagh induced an edge from Gary Ballance, who ended up being caught behind by Gary Wilson. When he collected his third victim in the form of James Taylor, Ireland were in with a great chance to notch a famous win. However, visiting captain (and ex-Ireland cricketer) Eoin Morgan (124*) and Ravi Bopara (101*) dashed their hopes with a record stand of 226*. Murtagh was the standout bowler, returning 3/33 in ten overs, of which two were maidens.

4/32 v Zimbabwe, Third ODI, Harare, 2015-16

Murtagh had unfortunately missed the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand due to a foot injury, but he was back in business a few months later. Following defeats in the first two games of this three-match series in Zimbabwe, Ireland managed to pull one back thanks to Murtagh’s return of 4/32, then his best in ODIs. After Craig Young removed Richmond Mutumbami in the first over, Murtagh dismissed Chamu Chibhabha to reduce Zimbabwe to 7/2.

Zimbabwe further fell to 88/4, before captain Elton Chigumbura and Sikandar Raza built a partnership of 71. It was Murtagh who provided the crucial breakthrough, as he had Chigumbura caught at long-off in the second over of his second spell. He went on to castle Raza in his following over, before adding the wicket of Wellington Masakadza. Murtagh starred with the bat too – with Ireland chasing 188, he scored 19* from number ten to ensure a tense two-wicket win.

4/45 and 2/55 v Pakistan, Only Test, Dublin, 2018

Ireland’s first men’s Test might have ended in a five-wicket defeat, but not before Pakistan were given a few jitters. Murtagh, who bowled the first ball of the match, delighted the enthusiastic Malahide crowd by having debutant Imam-ul-Haq out leg-before shortly after fellow pacer Boyd Rankin had accounted for Azhar Ali, leaving Pakistan at 13/2. Murtagh proceeded to dismiss Babar Azam, Shadab Khan and Mohammad Amir as well, and finished with 4/45 from 25 overs.

Despite Murtagh’s impressive showing, Pakistan clawed back from 159/6 to declare at 310/9. Ireland were bowled out for 130 in reply, but revived their fortunes with a total of 339 as they followed on, thanks to Kevin O’Brien’s 118. Murtagh and Rankin then combined to rattle Pakistan in their chase of 160, briefly raising hopes of the unthinkable. Murtagh began by having Azhar caught at first slip, before disturbing Asad Shafiq’s woodwork to reduce the score to 14/3.

4/30 v Afghanistan, Second ODI, Belfast, 2018

In March 2018, Ireland had lost to Afghanistan in what was a knockout match of the World Cup Qualifier, thereby missing out on a berth at the 2019 World Cup. Five months later, the two teams met again, in a three-match series in Ireland. Murtagh took 4/31 in the first game, but Ireland faltered in a chase of 227 to lose by 29 runs. He continued his productive run with another four-wicket haul in the second ODI, and this time it contributed towards an Irish victory.

Murtagh produced a penetrative spell to give Ireland early control of the proceedings. In conditions conducive to his swing, he trapped the dangerous Mohammad Shahzad on the pads for a duck off the second ball of the match, before going on to add the wickets of Hazratullah Zazai and Gulbadin Naib to send the score crashing to 13/3. He later also removed Rashid Khan, even as Afghanistan posted 182/9. Ireland eventually held their nerve to prevail by three wickets.

5/21 v Zimbabwe, Second ODI, Belfast, 2019

Murtagh showed no signs of waning in the twilight stage of his international career, as he recorded his best ODI figures of 5/21 against Zimbabwe in this second of a three-match series that Ireland would go on to sweep 3-0. Defending 242/9, the Irish were given a bright start by Murtagh, who bowled captain Hamilton Masakadza in the first over. Maintaining a disciplined line, he was rewarded with his second wicket in his third over, the batsman being Solomon Mire.

The very next ball saw Murtagh grab the prized wicket of Brendan Taylor, out leg-before, and Zimbabwe were now 14/3. Later, the game was delicately poised with Zimbabwe at 157/5 in the 33rd over, when Murtagh had a well-set Sean Williams caught at mid-wicket. He completed his fifer in his last over – at which point Zimbabwe needed 14 in eight balls – by dismissing Donald Tiripano, and by then, he had done enough to secure a series-clinching five-run win for the hosts.

5/13 v England, Only Test, Lord’s 2019

Murtagh reserved his finest international performance for his very last outing, it being Ireland’s historic Test match at Lord’s. It would not be wrong to say that Murtagh knows the Lord’s turf like the back of his hand, what with his successful stay at Middlesex since 2007, and he duly proved his worth with an incredible display that jolted England on the first day. Bowling in tandem with the promising debutant Mark Adair, he was indeed ‘at home’ at his county ground.

Openers Jason Roy (caught at first slip) and Rory Burns (caught behind) both succumbed to Murtagh, who further upped the ante by getting rid of Jonny Bairstow (bowled), Chris Woakes (LBW) and Moeen Ali (caught behind) – all for ducks – in a span of five balls to become the first man to take five wickets in a Test innings for Ireland. Though England were blown away for 85 before lunch, they clinched a 143-run win – Ireland were bowled out for 38 in the fourth innings.

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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